Luise (Louise) Friederike Auguste von Alten was born on June 15, 1832 in the Kingdom of Hanover. Her father, Gräf Karl Franz Viktor von Alten, was a Hanoverian nobleman while her mother, Hermine von Schminke, was a Hessian noblewoman. Because of the family’s aristocratic background, Louise and her parents were often at the royal Hanoverian court of King Ernest Augustus, the son of George III of the U.K. Louise, who was a great beauty, was a hit among the other Hanoverian courtiers from a young age. She possessed a certain charismatic allure that attracted people of all types and she was known to be a charming, sociable, and politically intelligent lady. Many men sought her hand in marriage but Louise was not interested in living the rest of her life in Hanover, which she viewed as too remote and insignificant when compared to other European kingdoms. Louise wanted a life much bigger than the one she had on the Continent. She wanted to rise above her peers and become, essentially, a nineteenth century celebrity. And to achieve all this, Louise knew that she had to step out of her homeland and into the unknown.
|Louise Montagu, Duchess of Manchester|
When Louise was in her late teens, she and her family spent the winter vacationing in southern France. One night, she attended an opera in the city of Nice where she caught the attention of a young British Lord by the name of William Drogo Montagu, Viscount Mandeville. William was the handsome son and heir of the 6th Duke of Manchester. Just about a year before he ran into Louise at the French opera, he was involved in a private scandal when he had a son out of wedlock with a commoner. When his mistress was eight months pregnant, his family hastily married her off to another man who gave his name to William’s illegitimate son. But this affair far from William’s mind when he met the beautiful and charming Louise. He began courting her straightaway and fell for her almost instantly, even declaring that his entire future happiness was in her hands. For Louise, the Viscount Mandeville was her means of rising to the greatest heights of society, as he would soon inherit his father’s dukedom and become one of the highest-ranking peers in the United Kingdom. So, when William proposed marriage, both Louise and her family happily accepted.
|William Drogo Montagu, 7th Duke of Manchester|
Louise and William’s children:
- George Victor Drogo Montagu, 8th Duke of Manchester (1853-1892) married: Consuelo Yznaga – had issue
- Lady Mary Louisa Elizabeth Montagu (1854-1934) married: (1) William Douglas-Hamilton, 12th Duke of Hamilton – had issue, (2) Robert Carnaby Forster – no issue
- Lady Louisa Augusta Beatrice Montagu (1856-1944) married: Archibald Acheson, 4th Earl of Gosford – had issue
- Lord Charles William Augustus Montagu (1860-1939) married: Hon. Mildred Cecilia Harriet Sturt – no issue
- Lady Alice Maude Olivia Montagu (1862-1957) married: Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby – had issue
|Louise Montagu, Duchess of Manchester|
(Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1859)
Louise and William resided mainly at Kimbolton Castle, which had been the family seat of the Dukes of Manchester since 1615 (it had once been the final home of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon). Three years after the couple’s marriage, William’s father died on August 8, 1855, making him the 7th Duke of Manchester and Louise his Duchess. Just like in Hanover, the lovely Louise was a popular figure in British society due to her physical attractiveness, foreign background, and enthralling personality. She was a master entertainer and was known for hosting wonderful, grand parties for her peers, who commended her flair for conversation and aptitude for discretion. She was talented not just as a social hostess but as a political one as well, for she was able to throw fun, exciting levees just as easily as she could host serious, intellectual dinners. It was her charm and ability as a well-rounded hostess that allowed her to make friends in high places, including the future King Edward VII. When she wasn’t throwing the party of the year, Louise was indulging in her next favorite pastime – horseback riding. Just as she did with her parties, Louise always made sure she made a splash in everything she did, including riding. She could always be seen wearing a tight-fitting riding habit and a cherry ribbon around her neck, which caused caught a stir amongst her male acquaintances. She was also known for her sense of humor, which could only be described as “salty”. Once, one of the men that she hunted with commented that on one memorable ride with the Duchess, she said that when they got back home, her “arse” would be as red as the ribbon she wore. Her spunk and her popularity prompted Queen Victoria to name her as her Mistress-of-the-Robes in 1858 (she always had a certain fondness for Prussian courtiers), to which the London society newspapers of the time said, “no one knows how gloriously beautiful a woman can be who did not see the Duchess of Manchester when she was thirty”.
|Consuelo Montagu, Duchess of Manchester|
|Spencer Compton Cavendish, |
8th Duke of Devonshire
|Louise Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire|
as Queen Zenobia
Louise lost some of her fame and power over time as she aged and society fluctuated around her. During the early twentieth century, the elderly Duchess was described as a “relic of a bygone age”. One contemporary recorded that she was “a wraith of what she had been, and still be-wigged and be-diamonded, and be-rouged, she was rather like the half ruinous shell of some castellated keep, with the flower boxes in full bloom on the crumbling stills”. Tragedy befell her in 1908 when her beloved husband, the Duke of Devonshire, died on March 24th at the age of seventy-four from pneumonia. A total of 300 Members of Parliament paid their respects at his funeral, after which he was buried at St. Peter's Churchyard in Edensor, which is the traditional resting place for members of the Cavendish family. Three years after the Duke's death, the seventy-nine year old Louise was attending the Sandown Races in Esher Park on July 15, 1911 when she suddenly suffered a seizure and died. She was interred with her husband at Edensor. Her death marked the passing of one of the last "Grand Dames" of the English aristocracy.